Friday, August 30, 2019

Nice by Sharon Hodde Miller

God never called us to be nice,” Miller writes. (Loc 2345/2640) What? But after reading her book, I think I get it. Yes, we are called to exhibit kindness, gentleness, and the other fruit of the Spirit. Being nice is not in that list.

Being nice means we want to be liked and appreciated. We don't speak the truth and we avoid hard conversations. It can become an idol and it can stand between us and obedience. It is “false formation that has replaced conformity to Christ.” (Loc 2391/2640)

Miller shows us the bad fruit of niceness. We can look so great, so Christian, for example, but hide what is really going on underneath. It is a false virtue. It is being religious. It is pleasing people rather than God.

Miller takes the second half of her book to help us uproot the tree of niceness and replace it with one growing toward true Christlikeness. To help readers incorporate the material included, Miller provides a Scripture at the end of each chapter as well as questions for personal reflection or group study.

I am a bit stunned by this book since my parents demanded niceness as I was growing up. Miller's book has given me a whole new way to look at being “nice,” especially my motives for doing so. This is a good book for Christians who want to grow in Christlikeness and avoid the trap of being nice.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Sharon Hodde Miller is a pastor's wife, mother of two small boys, and the author of Free of Me. In addition to earning her PhD, she has blogged at for nearly ten years. She has been a regular contributor to Propel and Her.meneutics, and has written for Relevant, Christianity Today, (in)courage, She Reads Truth, and many other publications and blogs. She speaks regularly on topics ranging from leadership to body image to Scripture. She and her family live in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Baker Books, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review. The quotes above are from an unedited copy of the book and may have changed in the final edition.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Fire by James Levesque

Revival is the only hope for America,” Levesque writes. (19) There is great opportunity for the Church today. “This is the greatest hour the church has known,” he says. (24) The greatest revivals and awakenings have yet to take place. (28)

But revival will not happen without fire. “We were never meant to live Christianity without God's fire.” (18) Levesque explains what the fire of God is, how to revive it and how to keep it burning. He covers a number of principles, using biblical stories and teaching.

This is a great book for charismatic Christians. How have we lost the fire of the revivals from the past? Why do we settle for tongues when there is so much more God has for us? Levesque wants to shake up Christians and he does so in this book.

This is an encouraging book. Levesque calls Christians to task. Like he says, we have been sitting around doing Bible studies, watching videos but not doing what Jesus said, witnessing to the lost and seeing souls saved. (109) God did not give us power and authority so we can sing songs about Him or make posts on Facebook about His power. (11)

If you are ready to live for Jesus like never before, this book just might be the encouragement you need to get going.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

James Levesque is an international speaker, church planter and young emerging apostolic voice in New England and Across America. He and his wife have three children and pastor Engaging Heaven Church in New London, Connecticut.

Chosen, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Reappearing Church by Mark Sayers

Sayers writes that we can look at the current situation as the death of Christianity or as a great opportunity. With understanding, he says, it can be an opportunity. He gives leaders information in this book to help them see the opportunity.

He covers the stages of the renewal pattern, our culture and how it offers freedom, consumerism, individualism, anxiety, and more.

My favorite part of the book was his insight into orthodoxy. It does not guarantee a vital faith nor preclude decline. Encountering God's presence is what is needed. (1133/2397) People must also come to the point of holy discontent, no longer tolerating the current state of spirituality. Those people are the seeds of revival.

Sayers' writing style is such that I felt I was reading a classroom text book or resource text, suitable for church leaders. The book is a study of the philosophy of renewal and revival. He writes about being self-differentiated, for example. (807/2397) That is something the average layperson would not have on their mind.

We must make the decision to no longer tolerate our low level of faith, our personal dysfunction, and give ourselves over to God's burning desire to remake us in Christlikeness.” (1302/2397) Only God can do the changing but we must choose to be changed.

The next Great Awakening, he writes, “must be centered on our hearts being changed by God. It must begin by replacing the pseudo-Christianity of lifestyle enhancement with the Spirit-filled faith of biblical Christianity. It must offer the renewal of Christlikeness to those being deformed by our culture in the deepest parts of their hearts.” (397/2397)

Sayers' book would be good for church leaders. It would help them understand the philosophy of renewal and what is needed to get transformation started. It is an informative book, rather than one containing a strategy to implement.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Mark Sayers is the senior leader of Red Church and the cofounder of Uber Ministries. He is the author of four previous books. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and their children.

Moody Press, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review. The quotes are from an uncorrected copy of the book and may have been changed in the final edition.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Termination Dust by Alana Terry Blog Tour

About the Book

Book: Termination Dust
Author: Alana Terry
Genre: Contemporary Christian Mystery/Suspense
Release Date: March 15, 2019

An abusive father. A devoted sister. When danger strikes, she’ll walk through fire to protect her family. 

Despite years of trauma, Kimmie’s faith has never faltered. And after her mom’s unexpected death, Kimmie risks everything to save her autistic brother from a life of neglect and abuse. Caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous dilemma, she dashes out with her brother into the bitter Alaskan night. With the devil in pursuit and the law on her stepdad’s side, Kimmie must brave the perils of the freezing wilderness in a desperate attempt to finally reach safety. Can Kimmie survive the daring escape, or has she doomed both herself and her brother to a frozen grave? Termination Dust is a standalone novel in the unforgettable Alaskan Refuge Christian Suspense series. If you like determined characters, harsh landscapes, and faith under fire, then you’ll love Alana Terry’s riveting novel. Buy Termination Dust to dive headfirst into a gripping adventure today!

Click here to grab your copy.

My Review

Terry is not afraid to write about tough issues. Here she tackles co-dependence and abuse. The main character is Kimmie. After her mother apparently committed suicide, Kimmie is left with her physically (but not sexually) abusive step-father, taking care of her four year old half brother.

Kimmie's character was a bit puzzling to me. She didn't seem to want to escape the harmful situation she was in, then suddenly decided to do so. And her mother never escaped, even though she had also suffered physical abuse and there had been a way out. We also find out that the communication of important issues from her mother to Kimmie was nonexistent. I thought those aspects of her mother odd as she was described as a committed Christian. Why did she let her no good husband batter her children for years? Is that what co-dependence looks like?

I do like Terry's writing style. It is clear and engaging. Even though there is really no mystery included, there is a bit of suspense. Readers who like novels dealing with abuse issues and including a little romance on the side will like this novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Alana is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mom, self-diagnosed chicken lady, and Christian suspense author. Her novels have won awards from Women of Faith, Book Club Network, Grace Awards, Readers’ Favorite, and more. Alana’s passion for social justice, human rights, and religious freedom shines through her writing, and her books are known for raising tough questions without preaching. She and her family live in rural Alaska where the northern lights in the winter and midnight sun in the summer make hauling water, surviving the annual mosquito apocalypse, and cleaning goat stalls in negative forty degrees worth every second.  

More from Alana

Something some of my fans may not know about me is while I grew up in the continental United States, I have made my home with my husband and children in Alaska for many years now. I have grown to love Alaska, which is probably why I was so excited to write this series about the Alaskan wilderness to share a bit of my favorite parts of Alaska with my readers. In Alaska, we have a phrase that perfectly describes the fall season: Termination Dust. That’s when the first snow falls on the mountains, signifying the end of summer. Fall in Alaska is beautiful. Orange on the tips of the trees lend a splash of color against the backdrop of unending green. For the first time since May, it gets dark enough to see the stars. If you brave the cold and happen to be awake at 1 am, you might even see some shooting stars. I hope you enjoy reading about Kimmie and her autistic brother as much as I enjoyed writing their story. As with all my suspense novels, if you like determined characters, harsh landscapes, and faith under fire, get ready to dive headfirst into a gripping adventure today!

Blog Stops

Stories By Gina, August 27
Betti Mace, August 28
Genesis 5020, August 29
Quiet Quilter, August 30
Emily Yager, August 30
Life as Lanhams, August 31
Anne Rightler, September 2
For Him and My Family, September 2
Blogging With Carol, September 3
Ashley's Bookshelf, September 3
Livin’ Lit, September 4
Mary Hake, September 5
Texas Book-aholic, September 6
A Reader's Brain, September 7
The Becca Files, September 8
janicesbookreviews, September 9

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

I appreciate this series of novels based on true crimes from the past. This one deals with grave robbing, a practice used by physicians doing research and schools training doctors. Bodies were always at a premium and grave robbing was frequently deemed necessary.

The novel got off to a bit of a rough start for me. It took a while for me to understand the context and the direction of the plot. How Josie became apparently dead and survived being buried is still a mystery to me. I would have appreciated more background information there. Once the novel got going it was okay but it did seem to bog down in the middle.

I felt a weakness of this novel was that it dealt with the general crime of grave robbing rather than a more specific crime and criminal, as the others in this series. I think that made for a much broader story line than I would have liked. I liked the other two novels in the series much more than this one. The strength of the novel was the historical information about cotton mills and the women who worked there.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Angie Dicken is a member of ACFW, is the mother of four and works in adult ministry. She has written two previous historical novels. You can find out more at

Barbour, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Blind Spots by Fil Anderson and Tim Riddle

We are taught to watch for blind spots when we are driving but what about those blind spots we have as we journey through life?

Anderson and Riddle want readers to be able to be aware of their blind spots and deal with them. They define a blind spot as “anything that stands in the way of being all that God has intended for our lives.” (245/2082) They may be willful sins but they may also be caused by ignorance or immaturity.

The authors share their own stories of blind spots then get down to helping us with ours. They take us through the reasons we have them and how they are formed. They explain God uses His Word, His Spirit and His people to show us things about ourselves we can't or don't want to see. They emphasize that we must choose awareness. We must be willing to ask ourselves hard questions, including the ones they provide. They even walk us through some of the feelings we might have when our blind spots are pointed out by trusted friends.

This is a good book. It is one of those every Christian would benefit from reading. The authors' writing style makes reading this book a pleasure, even though it is a hard topic. I like that the authors have provided a section at the end of each chapter to help readers apply what they have read to their lives. If you want to know yourself better and truly become aware of your blind spots, this is the book for you.

You can read a sample here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Tim Riddle, MAGL, is the CEO of Discover Blind Spots, whose mission is to help leaders find their blind spots. He was previously the Executive Pastor of St. Mark's Church and the founder and CEO of Riddle & Company, both in Burlington, NC. He and his wife have four children and live in Burlington, NC.
Fil Anderson is executive director of Journey Resources, based in Greensboro, NC. He is a frequent conference speaker, spiritual director, and director of retreats and workshops. He is a member of the teaching team at Potter's Inn Soul Care Institute. He is a member of the pastoral staff of St. Mark's Church, providing soul care to their staff and volunteers. He is the author of several previous books. He and his wife have three adult children and live in Greensboro, NC.

New Growth Press, 160 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Kingdom Come by Melissa Zaldivar

This is a good book for millennials or young adults wondering about Christianity and what it means. It is also good for young Christians wondering about their life and faith. Zaldivar writes of her own experiences and struggles with the meaning of faith and the reality of the Kingdom of God and His presence. She shares the lessons she has learned so far in her three decades of life.

She encourages us to train our eyes to see the Kingdom of God. It is often right before us but we have no idea what we are looking for. Her chapter on the presence of God was well written and is good for readers who have been disappointed in God, feeling He was absent during a painful time. I appreciate Zaldivar's encouragement to trust God even when we do not understand the mystery of His actions.

This book is good for millennials because it deals with the kind of faith relationships and struggles they experience. Zaldivar is much more relational in her faith than my baby boomer generation was. She shares many stories from her decade of counseling sessions, for example. Counseling is something my generation would not have even admitted to experiencing.

This book is also good for older readers to understand the faith life of younger Christians. Zaldivar writes she is of a “generation that was told that adventure and hype were the only way to do your faith.” (1865/2208) Reading this book helped me, a senior citizen, understand much better how young people are exercising their faith today.

Food for thought: “Everything in this life boils down to Kingdom and Presence.” (208/2208)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Melissa Zaldivar has a master's degree in theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is a freelance writer and blogs at . She lives in Wenham, MA.

FaithWords, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary uncorrected egalley of this book from the publisher. Quotes I have given may have been changed in the final edition of the book. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Adventures in Poverty by Nancy Bolton Blog Tour

About the Book

Book: Adventures in Poverty
Author: Nancy Bolton
Genre: Memoir
Release Date: July 30, 2019

Faced with eviction, living on union strike pay, our time for making a decision was running out. Where could we go to live with our five small sons? We had few options. The scariest possibility was also the one that fit best with our tiny income. But could we really make such a difficult move? To transport our family, and our mobile home onto a five-acre parcel of rural, undeveloped land? No electricity, no running water, with winter fast approaching. It sounded a little crazy…….  

Click here to grab your copy.

My Review

Bolton has written a good memoir of her recent pioneer homesteading experience. After a change in her husband's work circumstances, the family moved their mobile home to their undeveloped land. Imagine maintaining a family with five boys without running water or electricity. Bolton has written a well crafted and very interesting memoir. She shares her experiences of learning to live frugally, being humbled by the generosity of others, trying to be patient during setbacks, having a do-it-yourself attitude, to name just a few.

Bolton's writing style is good. Her stories are fun to read and include good insights. The memoir is full of life examples reminding us of what is really important in life. One lesson that came through very clearly was having an appreciation for the simple things in life. This a good book for readers who need encouragement when going through a tough financial time in life. You'll laugh at times and also be encouraged.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Nancy Shew Bolton is a wife, mother, grandmother, jewelry maker, crochet crafter, and of course: a writer! She lives in upstate New York in a lovely scenic region known as The Fingerlakes. Widowed last year, she is comforted by her five sons, two grandchildren and a marvelous array of family and other loved ones. She loves the creative process, and puts her whole focus into the stories she writes. May you be entertained and uplifted by them!

More from Nancy

Sometimes life hands out an unexpected challenge, and the direction you mapped out for your family comes up against a big roadblock. And there you are, trying to navigate back to a path that makes sense. One that would be as close to the previous path as you can get. But our only options led us in directions far away from what we were used to. Faced with eviction, living on union strike pay, our time for making a decision was running out. Where could we go to live with our five small sons? We had few options. The scariest possibility was also the one that fit best with our tiny income. But could we really make such a difficult move? To transport our family, and our mobile home onto a five-acre parcel of rural, undeveloped land? No electricity, no running water, with winter fast approaching. It sounded a little crazy…….

Blog Stops

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Take Back Your Time by Morgan Tyree

Another time management book? Yes, but this one comes at the issue with some fresh considerations. Tyree emphasizes choice. Since we all have 24 hours each day, what we choose to do in those hours makes the difference. She helps us determine our purposes, those areas we feel God is calling us to focus on, then establish priorities. She also writes about recognizing our strengths and unique abilities, personality styles and energy levels. She helps us evaluate our commitments. Knowing our purpose and priorities helps us to say no to requests.

Another new aspect of time management for me was to determine my daily cycles of productivity. Using her method, we can establish our best times to focus on tasks, our times we should be flexible, and the hours we can fill with what we want (and perhaps need for our own well being). She has a different way of writing out goals. She uses the acronym LIGHT rather than the familiar SMART.

Tyree includes time management tips too. We are reminded we need to say no sometimes. Finding cheerleaders was new to me. She offers free printable charts, such as time logs and calendars at her website to help in the discovery tasks.

Tyree tells lots of her own stories so the book is entertaining as well as informative. It's a good book for people who want to figure out how to organize their days considering their callings and their personalities.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Morgan Tyree has a BS in business administration with an emphasis in small business and entrepreneurship from the University of Oregon, and has worked in the fields of marketing, management, and human resources. She blogs weekly at Morganize with Me (, and contributes monthly to Organizing Junkie ( She and her husband have three children and live in Fort Collins, Colorado. Photo Credit: Kristen Rush

Revell, 192 pages.

I received a complementary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Fire Storm by Nancy Mehl

This is a good thriller but not Mehl's best. This is also the first novel I've read featuring Kaely Quinn. I found her conjuring up characters to talk to a little disconcerting. I know some of us had imaginary friends in childhood but to have one as an adult is quite odd. I would rather that Quinn talk to the Holy Spirit to obtain information about villains.

I also had some trouble in the end believing the final points of the plot and the people involved. Some of the characters were not who we readers thought them to be and it seemed a bit unrealistic that so many were fooled by them. Also, the very end, well, I felt the set-up was just too unrealistic.

Mehl's character development of Quinn is done well. She is a good FBI agent because of events in her childhood. Her character is a good model of one currently being driven by events from the past. Readers will find other characters with the same motivation. That part of the plot would be good for discussion.

While I don't think this is Mehl's best novel, I do like her writing style and will look for more from her. I may skip any more in the Kaely Quinn series as I personally don't like the character.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Nancy Mehl is the author of more than thirty books. She received the ACFW Mystery Book of the Year Award in 2009. She and her husband live in Missouri. You can find out more at www.nancymehl.comPhoto by: Ginger Murray Photography

Bethany House Publishers, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Back Roads to Belonging by Kristen Strong

You've probably been in a setting where you felt you just didn't belong. I know I have. Perhaps it was church or a small group or some other gathering. You feel on the outside. Maybe you are unsure of where and how you belong at all.

Strong wants us to be attentive to the back roads God uses, those wandering journeys where God is bringing us to an environment of connection. Often there are detours, uncomfortable places, dark places and lonely places. God's ways are often mysterious and, as Strong writes, often just plain odd. (571/3128) She reminds us that God moves “in a way that maximizes the consequences for good.” (2164/3128)

I appreciate the many insights Strong shares. Writing about the dark times, she encourages us to be available to bless others. Don't berate yourself for not belonging where God never intended you to belong, she says. (929/3128) Perhaps the most surprising insight for me was that God may be keeping us from belonging because of the people involved. He may be guarding our heart, protecting us from hurt. (2164/3128) I like Strong's encouragement: “I will be where Christ wants me to be in this moment.” (341/3128) We can rest in that and not force our way into some place God doesn't want us to be.

This is a good book for women who struggle with feelings of being an outsider. You'll find good wisdom and some serious encouragement in this book. You'll read many of Strong's own stories as well as those of others and some from the Bible. You'll be encouraged to be the one to reach out and be one who brings others to belonging. But most of all, you'll be encouraged to trust that God is taking you on the back roads to His best for you.

Food for thought: “Remember, there is always room at the table God picks out for you.” (2173/3128)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kristen Strong is the author of Girl Meets Change. She and her US Air Force veteran husband have three children. After several moves across the country and one ocean, they settled in Colorado Springs, Colorado. You can find out more at .

Revell, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

State of Lies by Siri Mitchell Blog Tour

About the Book

Book: State of Lies
Author: Siri Mitchell
Genre: Suspense
Release Date: August 13, 2019

Months after her husband, Sean, is killed by a hit-and-run driver, physicist Georgie Brennan discovers he lied to her about where he had been going that day. A cryptic notebook, a missing computer, and strange noises under her house soon have her questioning everything she thought she knew.

With her job hanging by a thread, her son struggling to cope with his father’s death, and her four-star general father up for confirmation as the next Secretary of Defense, Georgie quickly finds herself tangled in a political intrigue that has no clear agenda and dozens of likely villains. Only one thing is clear: someone wants her dead too. The more she digs for the truth, the fewer people she can trust. Not her friends. Not her parents. Maybe not even herself.

Click here to grab your copy.

My Review

This novel could be right out of today's headlines. Conspiracy theorists will love the plot centered on political intrigue. It made me really think about how an adversary country might blackmail some political leaders and gain an influence in our government.

I liked that the heroine, Georgie, is a physicist. Mitchell included some information about quantum physics, relativity, and other topics in physics and related it to the developing plot. I like to learn something when I read fiction and there was quite a bit about the U. S. involvement in Bosnia as well as the bits about physics.

I could have done without the initial bedroom scene. Although PG rated, it was an odd way to start a novel like this. It didn't add anything to the story and I would have preferred it not be there. Also, while this is a very good political thriller, there was no Christian influence or message in it, even though it is published by a “Christian” publisher.

This is a good novel for readers who like political thrillers where the future of the nation hangs on the work of an amateur uncovering the truth. It is well written and very interesting to think about with respect to current events.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Siri Mitchell is the author of 14 novels. She has also written 2 novels under the pseudonym of Iris Anthony. She graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and has worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she lived all over the world, including Paris and Tokyo. Siri is a big fan of the semi-colon but thinks the Oxford comma is irritatingly redundant. Visit her online at; Facebook: SiriMitchell; Twitter: @SiriMitchell.

More from Siri

A Sense of Place I’m so excited about the release of State of Lies! Among the many reasons for my excitement is the fact that I set the story in my own home town: Arlington, VA. Here are some things you might not know about Arlington:  
  1. Arlington was originally included within the borders of Washington, DC.
  2. Arlington isn’t actually a city – it’s a county. We’re the smallest self-governing county in the nation.
  3. Arlington regularly takes the top spot as the most educated place in the country.
  4. Arlington LOVES books. I count at least a dozen different little libraries in my neighborhood alone.
  5. Our region often has a hurricane warning or two every hurricane season. Can you guess where I’ve seen the longest lines when people start to make last-minute preparations? It’s not the grocery store; it’s not the hardware store. It’s the library! (Why wouldn’t you stock up on books too?)
  6. We host Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Pentagon.
  7. We are home to the very first Five Guys hamburger joint location.
  8. We are also home to the headquarters of over a dozen national agencies as well as organizations like Rosetta Stone and Nestlé.
  9. People who attended our high schools include Sandra Bullock, Warren Beatty, Shirley MacLaine, Katie Couric, and Patch Adams.
  10. The thing I love most about Arlington? Its people. Countless government contractors members of the federal workforce live here. I number them among my friends and neighbors. I’ve never met a group more dedicated, more informed, or more determined to put their expertise to good use. And guess what? My heroine, Georgie Brennan, is one of them!

The Pentagon and Washington, DC

Blog Stops

Among the Reads, August 20
CarpeDiem, August 21
Fiction Aficionado, August 22
All-of-a-kind Mom, August 22
Genesis 5020, August 22
Andrea Christenson, August 23
Pause for Tales, August 23
Rebekah Jones, August 26
Betti Mace, August 26
As He Leads is Joy, August 27
Wishful Endings, August 27
Moments, August 28
Mary Hake, August 28
Remembrancy, August 28
Hallie Reads, August 30
Bigreadersite , August 30
Connect in Fiction, August 31
Texas Book-aholic, August 31
janicesbookreviews, September 1
A Reader's Brain, September 1
Life of Literature, September 2
Henry Happens, September 2
I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.